Lahore has seen a lot of expansion over the past decade or so. A large number of people from nearby cities and villages have moved in, with hopes of finding better jobs and being close to medical facilities. Housing societies such as the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) have come up to cater to this influx, and there is an ever increasing flow of vehicular traffic on the roads. All of this has contributed to creating bottlenecks in major arteries of the city, especially during rush hours. In order to counter the issue, DHA has undertaken a project to control traffic, within the society and for the spillover from and on Walton Road.
The said project involves construction of two flyovers and four underpasses. One of the flyovers is supposed to ease the traffic flow from Walton Road through Defence Mor up to Ghazi Chowk. A three-tier road plan is in the pipeline for the traffic junction at Ghazi Chowk. It includes an underpass between H-Block market and Masjid Chowk, a flyover leading up to Y-Block, and regular traffic moving on ground level. The remaining two underpasses are to be constructed at Lalik Jan Chowk — one on each side — connecting Defence Main Boulevard to Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
DHA is composed of seven Phases, with additional Phases VIII-XI in planning and development stages. Five of these are completely occupied, which is the reason why there has been an increase in the number of traffic gridlocks at the main entrance of the society.
The officials have hired an independent contractor, MAAKSONS, to construct the said underpasses and flyovers. Waseem Khan, the main contractor of the project, tells TNS that a detailed cost-benefit analysis has been made which reveals that the flyovers and underpasses would be feasible, both economically and socially.
Sharing details of the project, he says, “There are 90,000 cars that use the route from Walton Road to Y-Block, Masjid Chowk, and Lalik Jan Chowk. Defence Mor, or the Walton signal, is the entrance most frequently used by the DHA residents. Most of the traffic that is directed to this part comes from Cavalry Ground, and from Jinnah Flyover to Walton. This forms a T-Junction at the Walton signal, ultimately resulting in a major traffic mess.”
In terms of design, DHA and MAAKSONS have provided a 3-D model of the entire stretch from Walton Road to Lalik Jan Chowk. To quote Khan, “The idea is to provide a better route for traffic going towards Y-Block and LUMS/Phase V.”
Talking about the proposed double underpass at the Masjid Chowk, Khan says, “Anyone living in DHA would agree to the fact that traffic has become a huge issue in the area. Traffic delays can be for as long as 20 to 30 minutes. The main contributor to these is the Ghazi Road signal. As a lot of people use this route to get to their homes in Phase IV and Phase V, to get to DHA Cinema, to turn left for the airport, and also to get to LUMS, the rush hours at this Chowk can become hugely frustrating.
The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs2.5 billion. The cost analysis, Khan says, shows that the consumption of fuel by the 90,000 cars travelling back and forth from DHA to Walton, is approximately Rs45 million. “With the construction of new flyovers and underpasses, the inflow of an additional 110,000 cars shall certainly save the people a lot of their precious money.”
When asked if any measures are being taken to ensure environmental safety, especially since Lahore has lately been plagued by air pollution and smog, which are blamed on authorities that ordered chopping of indigenous trees in order to widen roads and create new routes for Metro bus and the Orange Line train, Khan replies, “The entire project is going to be compatible with the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) standards.
“After the cost-benefit analysis, a detailed design of the project is to be submitted, along with the Bill of Quantities (BOQs). These are necessary requirements before the project can be approved.”
The contractor and the authorities have to also address any requirements of additional land acquisitions and whether those acquisitions will demand land to be bought from someone from the general public.
Khan claims that “If someone has a business setup on that piece of land, the authorities shall pay a compensation amount. In this connection, we conducted surveys that also served to raise public awareness about the issue.”
The signal-free corridor for DHA residents raises a few concerns for the public which is wary of any such development projects being started in the city, especially in the wake of the smog disaster that Lahore is still reeling from.
Sadia, a resident of Cantt, who comes to DHA every day to pick and drop her son from school, raises an early complaint about the project: “Although there are many signs all over DHA announcing this project, this has only created anxiety for people like me who have not been given any maps of alternate routes and what our commute will look like till the completion of this project.”
The project shall be executed in phases. During this time, diversion routes shall be announced for the residents of DHA so that they can move without much hassle. It is expected to complete in the next 6 to 8 months.